Council bosses hail state of finances as ‘good news’

BOROUGH council bosses have hailed the state of their finances, and say they are on course to be well ahead of their targets.

Cabinet members were told the ‘good news’ as part of the Governance and Performance Report for quarter one of 2012/13 given last Wednesday.

However, finance portfolio holder Raymond Singleton-Macguire said there were still risks to be aware of.

He said: “Clearly there is much uncertainty in the financial markets and there is also the spectre of the base rate reducing to even less than 0.5%, these are ongoing risks the finance team are managing.

“Despite the difficult environment we are working in, the council continues to be innovative, delivering good quality services and continuing to work within its existing budget and reduce its net budget going forward.”

Spending for the year is now predicted to be £8.676m compared to a budget of £8.74m.

The council has managed to make savings of £30-40k on its insurance contract, self-insuring more and setting up a reserve of £50,000.

Council leader Peter Bedford also praised the report which showed the council to be ahead or on track on most of its performance targets.

He said: “This is a good news story all around and I hope it’s produced as such in our local papers as much as the usual negatives.”

Only one performance area was highlighted as being negative - the garden waste collection scheme, which had a late start, but since July it has returned a waste figure of more than 40 per cent, ahead of the target of 35 per cent.

Other positives included sickness absences down, increased attendance at the Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex, market occupancy rates ahead, council tax and business rates collections ahead and solar energy production exceeding targets.

Face-to-face and telephone customer inquiries rose from around 4,500 for quarter one 2011-12 to 15,514 this quarter.

A council officer said this was due to calls about the introduction of the brown bin scheme.

The cabinet also recommended the writing off of £156,018.65 worth of business debts including several to businesses which had ceased trading such as £38,848.37 from the town’s Subway franchise SSJB Ltd.

The debts also include £7,455.92 owed by The Eagle Hotel. The debtor ceased to trade and has since moved to Scotland where the council was unable to enforce liability.